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Oakland Museum Of California Announces Angela Davis — Seize The Time, An Exhibition Exploring The Life And Legacy Of The Renowned Activist And Icon

(OAKLAND, CA) August 16, 2022 — The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) announces its upcoming major exhibition opening this October, Angela Davis — Seize the Time, examining the image, influence, and activism of the Oakland-based icon. Traveling to the West Coast for the first time after its debut at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, Seize the Time offers a deeper look into the life of Angela Davis through the lens of race, gender, economics, and policy.

With a focus on her arrest, incarceration, trial, and the national and international campaigns to free her, Seize the Time will highlight Davis’s legacy as well as her ongoing role as an important contemporary figure for artists and activists. The exhibition will feature a range of powerful material, including contemporary and historical artworks, media, literature, sketches, rare manuscripts of Davis’s philosophical and activist writings, and a dedicated archive on Angela Davis drawn from the Lisbet Tellefsen collection. Tellefsen is an Oakland archivist specializing in Black Power art, photography, and material culture. 

Using the Angela Davis Archive in Oakland as both the heart of the exhibition and a source, visitors are given the opportunity to investigate how we remember, preserve, and activate radical Black history. Fifty years after the campaign to “Free Angela Davis” was successful, Davis continues to be vital in our contemporary moment and her voice remains ever relevant. Seize the Time offers ways to let our past struggles fuel our current actions as we work toward a future where we all are free.

Beyond the archive and popular culture references, the exhibition positions Angela Davis as a continuing touchstone for contemporary artists. As they learn about Davis’s story, visitors are encouraged to think about the future and how their actions have an impact, gaining a new understanding of how they help shape the present and future for other generations. Seize the Time will also address intersectionality, offering perspectives that address the concerns of people who have multiple identities and oppressions.

Organized in partnership with the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, the exhibition provides a compelling and layered narrative of Davis’s journey. The exhibition was co-curated by  Donna Gustafson, Zimmerli’s Chief Curator, and Gerry Beegan, professor in Art & Design at Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts, in collaboration with OMCA Project Lead Lisa Silberstein and Curator Peggy Monahan. 

“The events of 1969 to 1972 launched a young, Black UCLA philosophy professor into international prominence, making her image an icon of hope and a symbol of Black resistance,” said Gustafson. “Our visitors were extremely moved by this exhibition, and we’re so glad that Seize the Time will make its way to the Oakland Museum of California to celebrate the life of Angela Davis, who is based in Oakland, and learn more about her extraordinary story.”

“We’re thrilled to partner with Zimmerli at Rutgers University to highlight a world-renowned historical figure with deep connections to our city,” said OMCA Director and CEO Lori Fogarty. “As with our recent exhibitions All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50 and Hella Feminist, Seize the Time connects our community with timely topics of both national and international significance with local and regional ties; in this case, we’re exploring the life of Angela Davis, a local icon with a global impact. We hope that visitors can dive deeper into the empowering legacy of Davis, and feel inspired to create change.”

As visitors enter the gallery, two enlarged prints will include a photo of Davis in a packed UCLA lecture hall nearby a graphic of Davis by Félix Beltrán. An introductory section invites visitors to learn about her life as an educator, activist, and figure of the Black liberation struggle, highlighting her work as a professor, her association with the Communist Party and firing from UCLA, and her involvement in political activism leading up to her arrest. The section includes posters, archival newsprints, multimedia collages, and photographs. 

A second section dives into why Davis was placed on the FBI’s most wanted list in 1970 and her subsequent trial. A chilling “Most Wanted” poster will hang on one wall and on the reverse will be a poster reading, “Sister: You Are Welcome Here,” representing the contrasting points of view during this moment in time. A compelling sketch from the courtroom portrays Davis and her mother rejoicing from the verdict. 

A third section focuses on the incredible international grassroots campaign to “Free Angela” led by community activists, organizers, and everyday people at home and abroad. Objects on view will include historical works responding to Davis’s imprisonment, artwork by members of the Black Arts Movement; materials produced internationally campaigning to “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners,” buttons, stickers, photographs, postcards, letters, and more. Two subsections will dive deeper into the international support for Davis from communist communities, as well as worldwide efforts to free all political prisoners, including Davis. 

The fourth section of the exhibition focuses on mass incarceration, featuring photographs and artworks by contemporary artists highlighting the connections between the prison industrial system and slavery, aligning with Davis’s work on prison abolition. The final section of the exhibition will bring visitors into the past and present through artworks and installations that reflect on historical moments connected to Davis, referencing her image, her writings, and her history. A new 30-minute video interview with Davis conducted by OMCA in 2019 will be screened in this section, featuring Angela Davis discussing her personal journey related to race, gender, economy, and political policy. Visitors will also be able to take away a timeline that highlights key moments in Davis’s life, providing context for her present day. 

Additional artworks and highlights throughout the exhibition include:

Press images are available here.

Angela Davis — Seize the Time is organized by the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University. This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Grant funding has been provided by the Middlesex County Board of County Commissioners through a grant award from the Middlesex County Cultural and Arts Trust Fund. Additional support is provided by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowment, Voorhees Family Endowment, Estate of Regina Heldrich, and donors to the Zimmerli’s Major Exhibitions Fund: James and Kathrin Bergin, Alvin and Joyce Glasgold, and Sundaa and Randy Jones.

Support for the development of the Oakland presentation of this exhibition is provided by Nia Impact Capital.


Hella Feminist
Great Hall 
On View until January 2023

Feminism. It’s a loaded word; as empowering to some as it is challenging for others. OMCA takes on this complex and timely topic with Hella Feminist, celebrating the lesser-known stories of feminism here in Oakland and the Bay Area.

Bringing together historic objects from the Museum’s collection such as posters, pins, and photographs, alongside newly commissioned works by artists, Hella Feminist is rooted in the idea that discrimination against all elements of identity (gender, class, race, sexual orientation, physical ability, education, age, etc.) is interlinked and that no element can be addressed in isolation.

The exhibition aims to challenge, provoke, and inspire visitors to reconsider and expand their understanding of feminism and its complicated history.

OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace
Gallery of California Natural Sciences

Little learners can unleash their curiosity and imagination in the newly created OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace. Located inside the Gallery of California Natural Sciences, the playspace is focused on the unique needs of children ages 2 to 5, along with their families and caregivers. Visitors ages 12 and younger receive free admission to OMCA, as long as they are accompanied by an adult over 18 years of age.

Play is critical to every child’s healthy development and the playroom offers something for everyone — from building materials and nature-themed puzzles to hands-on activities that spark creativity, wonder, and joy. Our youngest museum visitors can also discover the animals that make their homes in Oakland’s streams, hills, and backyards. The playspace gives families a fun, safe place to play, and to build community with other families.

Edith Heath: A Life in Clay
Gallery of California Art 

On View until October 30, 2022

Trailblazer. Rebel. Revolutionary. Discover the story of Edith Heath, founder and designer of Heath Ceramics. Heath transformed the ceramics industry, creating dinnerware from California clay for “Sunday best” and everyday use. Driven by the power of good design, and a commitment to her craft, Heath’s vision continues to live on through her stoneware and tile over 70 years later. Durable, not delicate, simple, yet stylish, Heath Ceramics is an icon of American design.



The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) tells the many stories that comprise California, creating the space and context for greater connection, trust, and understanding between people. Through its inclusive exhibitions, public programs, educational initiatives, and cultural events, OMCA brings Californians together and inspires greater understanding about what our state’s art, history, and natural surroundings teach us about ourselves and each other. With more than 1.9 million objects, OMCA brings together its multidisciplinary collections of art, history, and natural science with first-person accounts and often untold narratives of California, all within its 110,000 square feet of gallery space and seven-acre campus. The Museum is a leading cultural institution of the Bay Area and a resource for the research and understanding of California’s dynamic cultural and environmental heritage for visitors from the region, the state, and around the world.


The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is at 1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, in Oakland. Museum admission is $19 general; $16 seniors and students with valid ID, $12 youth ages 13 to 17, and free for Members and children 12 and under. There is a $6 charge in addition to general admission pricing for special exhibitions in the Great Hall. OMCA offers onsite underground parking and is conveniently located one block from the Lake Merritt BART station, on the corner of 10th Street and Oak Street. An accessibility ramp is located at the 1000 Oak Street main entrance to the Museum.